What Else Is In The Teaches of Peaches
By Peaches and Holger Talinski
Akashic Books, 2015
216 pages, $20.95
Reviewed by Matt Hanson
There are some people who tell stories so outlandish that you absolutely have to see it to believe it. Then, there’s Peaches. She’s the infamous anti-heroine and frenzied mystagogue of electronica-injected punk rock. In 2003, her “Fuck the Pain Away” resounded with the cinematic triumph in Sophia Coppola’s masterful Lost in Translation during the hilariously awkward strip club scene. “What Else Is in the Teaches of Peaches,” she sings in “Fuck the Pain Away.” Well, the answer is only expected from the likes of Peaches. “Sex on the beaches,” she responds, her voice dangling over a hot break beat.
What Else Is in the Teaches of Peaches is dedicated to her sister in the interest of conveying a worthwhile visualization of her proudly unbelievable stories. The photographs of Berlin-based Holger Talinski are tasked to do this justice, which he animates with all of the verbally inexpressible, acid charm of Peaches.
Three short essays accompany the 81 pages of photos that reveal the full range of life experience, unconscious and conscious alike. The notable Yoko Ono, whose performance art is currently exhibiting at the Museum of Modern Art, shares pages with Ellen Page and Michael Stipe.
A photography book on a punk rock legend would just not be complete without multiple shots of the icon on her throne—the toilet seat that is—shitting her way to stardom in the voids of fanaticism and art. Of the 154 photos, there are about four, if you count a public squat, and an unapologetically confessional peed pants shot. On her way to the stage, onstage, backstage, after party, on the road, in theater, at the art gallery, among friends, and taking it easy, Peaches is Peaches. Her book carries all the seductive drama of the artist visionary at work, and of her story in color.
Her presence is free, without even a trace of sorry on her lips, her eyes don’t even twitch in the direction of looking back. For that essential reason, provable by seeing photographs showing the awed look in the faces of her fans, she has become an inspiration for women everywhere. Her lyrics, her show, her being is a celebration of womanhood as free, individual and creative.
Her beauty is her own. There she is, resting angelic in peace, and then, donning the vestments of a psychedelic soldier in the war for sanity. She listens to her crowd, microphone pitched to the sea of waving arms, which in the next photo she is then surfing. After the performance, there she stands, in a hotel room, in sweaty underwear, pensive as a blind sage. She is the contradiction of human life emerging from the dream of modernity, through all of her distinct, biting sonic intensity, her bold fashion sense, at times denuded, at other times blown up beyond human proportion to that of an animal goddess. Yet, Peaches is a woman, no more, no less, with drumstick and microphone in hand, raining down her lyrical gravity of sweat and spit over the swollen masses.
The notion of the book began in the sparking mind of Talinski, first inspired to photography by the roar of skate and rail, now swept away in the vehement momentum of Peaches in the wake of her 2008 release I Feel Cream while she began making arrangements to tour with her band Sweet Machine. As she expresses in the preface to “What Else Is in the Teaches of Peaches,” Holger excited her with his idea, and later impressed her by pursuing it for six years. Peaches herself had kept diligent documentation of her work, though at the time of the inquest by Holger, the even more radicalized degree of costume changes she would pursue, and the technological leaps in her musical equipment demanded a more stringent documentary following.
In her language, she has a humble, almost gentle, informal cadence to her written voice, noting that she couldn’t believe that after eight years of recording and performing, she was touring. As for Holger, he quickly becomes part of the touring company, who she refers to as part of her family.
As Peaches recounts her leaps and bounds in her performance art, it’s astonishing that the same woman who eats and shits grungy punk masterworks also doubles as an ardent operatic vocalist. The film, Peaches Does Herself was the result of her training, where she collaborated with an orchestra, pianist and exhibited the full range of her often heavily obscured pipes amid the characteristically dense electro-rock soundscape.
She’s self-deprecating to the point of bombast, referring to her plentiful career as “all that shit,” as she prefaces the book from Germany, expressly proud of Holger for his unexpected oeuvre. Whether smoking up, or winding down, looking straight into the lens, Peaches is a scintillating beauty, a charmer of snakes and wits. Holger’s captured moments are arrayed to encircle her attraction, as friends, admirers and colleagues spiral about the challenging, frayed wonders of Peaches as herself, the performing artist, and the reflective woman behind it all.
His photos captivate a bare bones look at an artist, and in so doing, he asserts his photographic voice, somewhat always off-center and speaking to the awkward life, like the eccentric personality he follows. Ultimately, Peaches is different. She is female identity at its base. And Holger totally conveys how true originality in the life of an artist can manifest simply as a human being out of touch with the rest. In the quieter moments, this truth comes alive for Peaches, who is a soul wanderer, a ruthless leader in the vein of life as lived for today. While the photographs don’t exactly tell a solidly discernible single narrative, it’s like the technicality of film, a reflection of Peaches as she lives her life.
She can party, often laughing like a wild howling mountain man. Ellen Page remembers how she vomited fake blood, though convincing nonetheless. Page writes, “For a sixteen-year-old gay person, she offered something that I could not find elsewhere. A voice that said, Fuck shame, fuck the male-dominated perspectives of sex, fuck gender stereotypes, fuck not embracing your desires, and fuck not owning yourself.” It’s a great testament that the person who wrote this about Peaches wrote it after Peaches had vomited on her. Michael Stipe compares her with the Sex Pistols, The Stranglers, David Bowie, Public Enemy, Missy Elliot, Patti Smith, Die Antwoord, Kim Gordon, and even NWA. Stipe’s allusion is that she’s the right mix of offensive and vulnerable. That, in short, is just sheer human bravery. And that’s what art is exactly about.